NYC Will Honor Two Transgender Activists With New Monument

transgender flag
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

LGBT revolutionaries Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will be forever immortalized by a new monument just down the road from the historic Stonewall Inn, New York City officials announced Thursday.

Rivera and Johnson were activists in the heart of the LGBT rights movement from the 1960s until their respective deaths in 1992 and 2002. Both women were at the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, the protest that is now honored every June with pride month.

According to the New York Times, the monument will be one of the first ever in the world to honor transgender people.

“When trans young people trying to find their place in the world come to the Village, they’ll look up at a monument to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera,” New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Bill de Blasio tweeted Thursday. “They’ll see themselves, and their own potential to make history.”

According to the Associated Press, the monument is part of an effort to memorialize more LGBTQ people and people of color in a city that has so far struggled to represent its diversity in public works.

Currently, there is a statue in Greenwich Village near the Stonewall Inn that marks the uprising. However, it’s a white statue of four unnamed individuals and critics say it doesn’t represent the transgender women of color that were at the forefront of the uprising.

Rivera and Johnson’s activism stretched well beyond that day in 1969. Together, they founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970, which supported homeless transgender people.

At the time, “transgender” wasn’t a commonly-used word and people with gender identities that didn’t match their biological sex called themselves transvestites, drag queens, transsexuals or queers.

Johnson continued her activism until her death in 1992, where her body was found in the Hudson River. Following the tragedy, Rivera founded a shelter for transgender people in Brooklyn.

Marsha Johnson, from a 1972 interview in “Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation”:

“I’d like to see the gay revolution get started, but there hasn’t been any demonstration or anything recently. You know how the straight people are. When they don’t see any action they think, ‘Well, gays are all forgotten now, they’re worn out, they’re tired.’ … If a transvestite doesn’t say I’m gay and I’m proud and I’m a transvestite, then nobody else is going to hop up there and say I’m gay and I’m proud and I’m a transvestite for them.”

New York City officials are working on finding an artist for the project. They hope for the monument to be completed by 2021.

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